Heart and Seoul
VALUE-FOR-FOR-MONEY KOREAN CARS COME OF AGE AG
CARS from South Korea no longer can be passed off as ‘‘cheap in price but not good enough for me’’. Many of the current models are fine looking, well made, cleverly engineered but still excellent value for owners who do not care so much about the snobbery of what badge happens to be on their key fob.
An examination of vehicles from Korea can be a headline writer’s dream – My Brilliant Korea, Korea Path, Cars with Seoul – but equally, a reminder that Korea has many market sectors covered in Australia, with the value-for-money factor featuring in all.
Small and medium-size hatchbacks or sedans, four-wheel-drive SUVs, tradies’ and farmers’ utes to dual-cab recreation 4WD utes, people movers, delivery vans, light trucks, very good looking two-door sports coupes and even a large executive saloon are among the offerings off the frequent ships from South Korea, h o me to t h e n e wes t Grand Prix in the Formula One world championship.
Hyunda i – in the highexpectations spot as it is, s a n d wi c h e d in the automotive lexicon between brands HSV and Jaguar – probably did more than any other brand to get Korean cars into Aussie driveways with its small Excel 1.5-litre, 52kW job, from 1986. Hyundai now is ahead of Mitsubishi and Nissan as the No 5 selling brand in Australia.
Kia, too, is now a brand well known on Australian roads; Ssangyong hasn’t soared to the same degree but it has a presence. We’ve said before on these pages that it probably was the Kia Sorento that proved Korea could make cars that held their own against rivals, yet still were less in price.
What’s not widely known is that a number of Holden models come directly from Korea, including the Barina range and its new Spark, the Epica, Captiva SUV and, most successfully, the Holden Cruze.
Since being launched last year, Cruze has become one of the biggestselling cars in Australia, rivalling the Ford Falcon in new-car sales and not far behind Hyundai’s i30 as the topselling Korean car here.
Holden used to import small cars from Europe but now has all its imported models from Korea, such is the faith it has in the engineering and build quality. ‘‘We believe the value equation continues to attract customers to our imported products,’’ Holden senior manager of product communications Jonathan Rose says.
‘‘Vehicles such as the Cruze, Captiva and the recently launched Barina Spark offer great styling and a long list of features as standard, at an affordable price.
‘‘The combination of those elements are proving very popular in the market.’’
Mr Rose says the cars are ‘‘global’’ rather than tied to one nation. ‘‘Cars like Barina Spark produced by GM’s global small-car team aren’t Korean cars; they’re global and will be made and sold on virtually every continent.’’
Hyundai, meanwhile, has become the fastest-growing car company in the world and has a good spread of a dozen models on sale here: the i20, i30, i30cw, stylish new i45, Getz, Elantra, Tiburon coupe, iMax wagon, ix35, Santa Fe, iLoad and luxury Grandeur.
Its sister maker in Korea, Kia, leads in people-mover sales with its Carnival and Grand Carnival and has the excellent-looking Koup two-door among its line-up.